The Meixi Memorial Archways, located at the entranceway to Meixi Village on the outskirts of the city of Zhuhai, consist of three unique stone memorial archways. The 100-year-old granite archways were constructed by imperial order during the reign (CE 1875-1908) of Emperor Guangxu, the penultimate emperor of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, in order to honor a certain Chen Fang, a Chinese citizen who had "made it good" in America, namely, in Hawaii. The site is ranked as a key historic and cultural site, and enjoys the official government protection of the of Guangdong Province.
As a young man, Chen Fang travelled to America (Hawaii) in search of work. In Hawaii, Chen Fang became a successful businessman running a sugar-cane business in Honolulu, where he was later appointed the Chinese consul by the Qing government, the first instance of a Chinese consulate in Hawaii. In 1890, Chen Fang, having become a millionaire, returned to his native village of Meixi where he undertook many philanthropic initiatives for which he was praised by his fellow villagers and for which he was honored by the imperial government.
In the 12th and 17th years of Emperor Guangxu's reign, the emperor honored Chen Fang with four special stone tablets into which inscriptions such as "Generous & Charitable" and "Selfless & Kind-Hearted" were engraved. Accordingly, these stone tablets as well as a set of three archways were erected in the village of Meixi on the initiative of the emperor to honor Chen Fang as a model public servant, and to commemorate the philanthropist's life's work. Unfortunately, one of these unique archways, which combine elements of traditional Chinese architecture with Western ornamentation - in deference to Chen Fang's time spent in Hawaii - was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Meixi Memorial Archways Scenic Site
The archways are, as indicated, embellished with a mix of Chinese and Western-style motifs exquisitely carved into them, such as the legendary Eight Immortals, various auspicious beasts, human figures, flowers and fruit, and calligraphic works. The memorial archways, very tall and lofty by the standards of the time, are still magnificent to behold, their beauty owing to many factors, including their placement in the landscape, their size, and the workmanship that went into their construction and ornamentation. Add to that the fact that these archways were constructed on the behest of an emperor, and the picture is complete.
The scenic area of the memorial site covers an area of some 125,000 square meters. Besides the archways themselves, the principal parts of the scenic site consist of the house that Consul Chen Fang built after his return to his natal village of Meixi from Hawaii, the Chen family garden, and the Chen Fang family's graveyard.
The Chen Fang family house contains a number of exhibits such as the history of the Chen Fang family lineage - including photos of Consul Chen Fang in Hawaii - waxwork replications of prominent citizens of Zuhai down through history - including of course a waxwork replication of Chen Fang himself - an exhibit devoted to Chinese needlecrafts, and an active workshop dedicated to Chinese handicrafts that also include performances of Sichuan Opera's "Changing Face" opera as well as other theatrical performances involving acrobatics, a feature common to Chinese opera since ancient times.
A visit to Meixi Memorial Archways Scenic Site is thus more than a visit to a stone memorial dedicated to a single individual; it is a visit to a humble little village that produced some relatively famous Chinese personages, and it offers a close-up view of some of the handicrafts, including theatre handicrafts, that came to define China in the world at large in a byegone era, and which continue to play a prominent role in modern-day Chinese culture.
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